Consider this... before joining that gym!
First impressions cannot be beat. If a friend recommends a restaurant to you over and over, until you finally decide to go; if you find the service mediocre and the food terrible, you aren't likely to return. If you were provided with friendly, prompt service and a great meal you're likely to return again and again.
The gym business and the restaurant business are very much alike in that their success is often measured by what level of customer service(s) they are willing to provide.
Finding the right gym, fitness center, or wellness facility is a lot like finding that new restaurant. A good fitness/training facility will fit your own unique personality, and motivate you to come back and exercise on a regular basis, not hinder you to do so in any way.
Unlike a restaurant however, joining a gym normally requires a lengthy financial commitment, or large cash on spot payment to join; so it's even more important that you carefully research your options before leaping in.
When you attend each facility you are considering for membership, just walk in randomly at a time you would normally exercise. This gives you the opportunity to see the front desk (first impression) of that facility without them knowing you're a potential customer on the way.
All facilities offer tours, you are normally free to walk throughout, or are escorted and given a brief five to ten minute tour, at which time you should then ask any and all questions you may have. It's routine for clubs, gyms, wellness centers to offer at least a one time free day pass to try out the equipment, classes, and other amenities firsthand, some offer an entire week, or up to 30 days, so be sure to be specific when you ask about passes.
It's impossible to truly know a facility is good for you and your family from a one day pass, so be sure to consider the following before making that financial commitment that is very hard to get out of.
1. Where Are You The Most? Work/Home?
Selecting a gym that is far from where you spend the most time is not likely to allow you to get up and go on those days when you aren't motivated to go at all.
Selecting a location between work and home, is the most likely way to remain consistent with the attendance factor of your program. No excuses not to stop by the gym for an hour when you are always either on your way to, or on your way from one or the other.
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2. Facility Operation Hours.
Finding out what time the facility is open and how late it's open is essential to plugging exercise into your daily routine without skipping a beat. If your facility open when you'll utilize it the most? While certain gyms are open 24 hours a day, amenities such as Personal Trainers, Supplement Stores, Tanning, Pool, Child Care, are not offered during these extended hours.
Yet others are closed on weekends. If you work out early in the morning or very late at night, be sure the hours fit your schedule, don't pay for something you can only use 50% of the time.
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3. Current Members.
Every person reacts differently to others around them. Exercise is like a ritual, it's personal and to each his own, and we each crave our own space. Is this facility co-ed when you prefer same-sex only? Is this location too crowded during your available exercise hours?
The front desk staff should be able to answer any and all questions you may have and should be trained enough to assist you in and out of machines, cardio equipment, or the like. During the working hours, there should always be a floor trainer on duty.
This should be a nationally certified, trained, CPR Certified professional. They are often wandering around assisting members, giving new member orientations, or training clients. This person should be trained, certified and prepared to answer any questions you may have about certain machines, equipment or free fitness classes or programs offered to members.
This may or may not be obvious on your first trip to the gym, so keep your eyes peeled. Make sure that disposable paper towels are available to wipe off equipment, be wary of clubs that use regular cloth towels that can harbor and transfer bacteria.
Make sure the club provides access to a spray bottle properly labeled and containing an anti-microbial to use on the machines and equipment after each use. These anti-microbial agents are very concentrated and diluted with water; they prevent the spread of many microorganisms.
Note that the staff members are following these good hygiene practices as well. If you will be utilizing the locker room and shower facilities, be sure to take a peek inside the shower, the toilet stalls and the sinks to see if they are clean and properly maintained.
6. Equipment Offered.
Look around at the more popular areas; are there enough machines to go around or are people having to sign in/out of a list to use these machines?
Is there a limited time for cardio equipment, does this facility have restrictions on things like using hand chalks, doing deadlift or other things? Do they have enough random equipment such as stability balls, BOSU trainers, resistance bands, medicine balls and not just weight plates?
If you happen to be a bodybuilder, do the weights, dumbbells go high enough in weight to suit the progression of your program? I have personally been in facilities where the highest dumbbell available was a 55, you were not allowed to do deads, and were forced to use a smith machine when squatting.
Make sure that there are a wide variety of machines, dumbbells, barbells, plates, and separate stations to work out. Be cautious of many out-of-order machines; this might be indicative of a poorly maintained gym if the problem isn't corrected in a reasonable amount of time.
7. Group Exercise.
Group exercise classes have long been a staple of the average gym-goers program. If group classes are up your alley, be sure to find out if the classes you want are included in your membership, or are there extra fees; What time is your favorite class offered, and how many times per week?
If classes are all you utilize, find out if there is a special rate for Group Ex only, as with paying for an entire membership would be a waste never using the rest of the facility.
8. Child Care Or Nursery.
In the last few years, the onset of child care or nursery centers on-sight at the facility has answered the wishes of many parent not able to find time to get in shape. Find out what days and hours the child care center is open. Some take newborns, while others only take potty trained children.
Most facilities no longer change diapers, for liability reasons. Find out the time limit for each visit, and if there are additional fees for this as well.
9. Cost & Fees.
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In the end, most will select mostly due to cost, putting the aforementioned considerations a close second in the final decision. Most facilities have an incentive to join program going, but don't offer this information.
Gym Forum Threads:
A prospective member has to initiate by asking about any current new member, or sign up promotions. This is when they will tell you how to waive the initiation or joining fee. Find out if this facility allows you to pay month by month, or with cash or credit?
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Some facilities require an automatic electronic withdrawal/draft each month to guarantee payment. Most facilities offer a reduction in overall rate if you pay 3, 6, or 12 months in advance with cash or credit card.
When it comes to finding the right gym, rec center, fitness center, and wellness facility for you and your needs, be very picky, don't be afraid to be a pain in the @ss and ask a lot of different questions. You are wanting to pay them a fee, to provide you a service, to better your health, body, physique, overall life - make sure the service is up to your expectations. You are the customer after all - without you, there is no facility!